Luke Chapter 10 includes the story of Martha and Mary. I'll quote it below and being a good Catholic who respects copyright law and is too lazy to determine how many verses I can quote of a copyrighted version without running afoul of the law, I'll use the public domain Catholic Bible, the Douay Rheims--this edition was published in 1890 and the general language is similar to the King James Version.
From Luke 10
38 Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord's feet, heard his word.40 But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me.41 And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things:42 But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.
I just finished a NetGalley (advance publicity copy) of a book that brought this story to mind. The book is A Song for the Road by Kathleen Basi.
I loved this book and will be publishing a review of it when it gets closer to publication.
Anyway, the story of Martha and Mary has always annoyed me just a little--yes, I'm a Martha, not a Mary. I'm the volunteer, the one who leads Girl Scout troops, teaches religion classes, reads at Mass and is generally available if someone needs something done. If service hours had been a thing when I was in high school, I'm sure I would have had plenty. Give me something to do and I'm in my element. Make me sit and socialize and I get uncomfortable fast.
What is the story supposed to tell us? Are we all supposed to spend our days sitting at His feet? I'm sure to some extent the answer to that question is "yes". We need to take time in prayer to listen to what He has to tell us, and for some of us, that can be hard. Silence and contemplation is harder than a to-do list.
However, I noticed in reading the story, it doesn't say "and Jesus said unto Martha 'put down your dishes, bank the fire and come listen to me. Don't worry about dinner ' " Perhaps he wasn't criticizing anything about Martha except her criticism of Mary. Both Martha and Mary loved Jesus, they just expressed that love differently.
Martha and Mary appear in John's gospel as well, in Chapter 11:
20 Martha therefore, as soon as she heard that Jesus had come, went to meet him: but Mary sat at home. 21 Martha therefore said to Jesus: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22 But now also I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23 Jesus saith to her: Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith to him: I know that he shall rise again, in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live: 26 And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever. Believest thou this? 27 She saith to him: Yea, Lord, I have believed that thou art Christ the Son of the living God, who art come into this world. 28 And when she had said these things, she went, and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: The master is come, and calleth for thee. 29 She [Mary], as soon as she heard this, riseth quickly, and cometh to him. 30 For Jesus was not yet come into the town: but he was still in that place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews therefore, who were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary that she rose up speedily and went out, followed her, saying: She goeth to the grave to weep there. 32 When Mary therefore was come where Jesus was, seeing him, she fell down at his feet, and saith to him: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 33 Jesus, therefore, when he saw her weeping, and the Jews that were come with her, weeping, groaned in the spirit, and troubled himself, 34 And said: Where have you laid him? They say to him: Lord, come and see. 35 And Jesus wept. 36 The Jews therefore said: Behold how he loved him. 37 But some of them said: Could not he that opened the eyes of the man born blind, have caused that this man should not die? 38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself, cometh to the sepulchre. Now it was a cave; and a stone was laid over it. 39 Jesus saith: Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith to him: Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he is now of four days. 40 Jesus saith to her: Did not I say to thee, that if thou believe, thou shalt see the glory of God? (emphasis mine)
Again, Martha is portrayed as the doer, Mary as the receptive one--which doesn't mean that Martha was not receptive, it just means that she thought in practicalities---"he stinketh", and Mary had to leave the house and approach Jesus. Both loved Him but they were different people and loved differently.
In A Song for the Road, the main character, Miriam, starts off believing that she hasn't loved enough, and that she wasn't loved enough by some and through her journey she learns that the love of Martha (my words, not Kathleen's) is no less (or greater) than the love of Mary.
How do you love? Are you a Martha or a Mary? Are you being called to be more of the other?